So far, so good. But there are two sides to every question. Years rolled by, bringing ever nearer and nearer the time at which the account had to be settled, and at length the fatal day dawned. The Devil arrived to claim his victim, and found him sitting in his house reading his Bible by the light of a candle, whereupon he directed him to come along with him. The Doctor begged that he might not be taken away until the candle, by which he was reading, was burned out. To this the Devil assented, whereupon Dr. Colville promptly extinguished the candle, and putting it between the leaves of the Bible locked it up in the chest where he kept his gold. The candle was thus deposited in a place of safety where there was no danger of any person coming across it, and thus of being the innocent cause of the Doctor's destruction. It is even said that he gave orders that the candle should be put into his coffin and buried with him. So, we may presume, Dr. Colville evaded the payment of his debt. Our readers may perchance wonder why such stories as the above should have become connected with the reverend gentleman, and an explanation is not hard to be found. Dr. Colville was a well-known divine, possessed of great wealth (inherited lawfully, we may presume), and enjoyed considerable influence in the country-side. At this time Ulster was overrun by triumphant Presby-terianism, which the Doctor, as a firm upholder of Episcopacy, opposed with all his might, and thereupon was spoken of with great acerbity by his opponents. It is not too uncharitable, therefore, to assume that these stories originated with some member of that body, who may well have believed that such had actually happened.
For the next instance of witchcraft and the supernatural in connection with Ireland we are compelled to go beyond the confines of our country. Though in this the connection with the Green Isle is slight, yet it is of interest as affording an example of that blending of fairy lore with sorcery which is not an uncommon feature of Scottish witchcraft-trials. In the year 1613 a woman named Margaret Barclay, of Irvine in Scotland, was accused of having caused her brother-in-law's ship to be cast away by magical spells. A certain strolling vagabond and juggler, John Stewart, was apprehended as her accomplice ; he admitted (probably under torture) that Margaret had applied to him to teach her some magic arts in order that " she might get gear, kye's milk, love of man, her heart's desire on such persons as had done her wrong." Though he does not appear to have granted her request, yet he gave detailed information as to the manner in which he had gained the supernatural power and knowledge with which he was credited. " It being demanded of him by what means he professed himself to have knowledge of things to come, the said John confessed that the space of twenty-six years ago, he being travelling on All-Hallow Even night between the towns of Monygoif and Clary, in Galway, he met with the King of the Fairies and his company, and that the King gave him a stroke with a white rod over the forehead, which took from him the power of speech and the use of one eye, which he wanted for the space of three years. He declared that the use of speech and eyesight was restored to him by the King of Fairies and his company on a Hallowe'en night at the town of Dublin." At his subsequent meetings with the fairy band he was taught all his knowledge. The spot on which he was struck remained impervious to pain although a pin was thrust into it. The unfortunate wretch was cast into prison, and there committed suicide by hanging himself from the " cruik " of the door with his garter or bonnet-string, and so " ended his life miserably with the help of the devil his master."1
A tale slightly resembling portion of the above comes from the north of Ireland a few years later. " It's storied, and the story is true," says Robert Law in his Memorialist " of a godly man in Ireland, who lying one day in the fields sleeping, he was struck with dumbness and deafness. The same man, during this condition he was in, could tell things, and had the knowledge of things in a strange way, which he had not before ; and did, indeed, by signs make things known to others which they knew not. Afterwards he at length, prayer being made for him by others, came to the use of his tongue and ears ; but when that knowledge of things he had in his deaf and dumb condition ceased, and when he was asked how he had the knowledge of these things he made signs of, he answered he had that knowledge when dumb, but how and after what manner he knew not, only he had the impression thereof in his spirit. This story was related by a godly minister, Mr. Robert Blair, to Mr. John Baird, who knew the truth of it".
1 Scott, Demonology and Witchcraft, Letter v.
2 Ed. C. K. Sharpe (Edinburgh, 1818).
The Rev. Robert Blair, M.A., was a celebrated man, if for no other reason than on account of his disputes with Dr. Echlin, Bishop of Down, or for his description of Oliver Cromwell as a greeting (i.e. weeping) devil. On the invitation of Lord Claneboy he arrived in Ireland in 1623, and in the same year was settled as (Presbyterian) parish minister at Bangor in Co. Down, with the consent of patron and people ; he remained there until 1631, when he was suspended by Dr. Echlin, and was deposed and excommunicated in November, 1634. He has left a few writings behind him, and was grandfather of the poet Robert Blair, author of The Grave.1
During the years of his ministry at Bangor the following incident occurred to him, which he of course attributes to demonic possession, though homicidal mania resulting from intemperate habits would be nearer the truth. One day a rich man, the constable of the parish, called upon him in company with one of his tenants concerning the baptizing of the latter's child. " When I had spoken what I thought necessary, and was ready to turn into my house, the constable dismissing the other told me he had something to say to me in private. I looking upon him saw his eyes like the eyes of a cat in the night, did presently conceive that he had a mischief in his heart, yet I resolved not to refuse what he desired, but I keeped a watchful eye upon him, and stayed at some distance ; and being near to the door of the church I went in, and invited him to follow me. As soon as he entered within the doors he fell atrembling, and I, awondering. His trembling continuing and growing without any speech, I approached to him, and invited him to a seat, wherein he could hardly sit. The great trembling was like to throw him out of the seat. I laid my arm about him, and asked him what ailed him ? But for a time he could speak none. At last his shaking ceased, and he began to speak, telling me, that for a long time the Devil had appeared to him ; first at Glasgow he bought a horse from him, receiving a sixpence in earnest, and that in the end he offered to him a great purse full of sylver to be his, making no mention of the horse ; he said that he blessed himself, and so the buyer with the sylver and gold that was poured out upon the table vanished. But some days thereafter he appeared to him at his own house, naming him by his name, and said to him, Ye are mine, for I arled you with a sixpence, which yet ye have. Then said he, I asked his name, and he answered, they call me Nickel Downus (I suppose that he repeated evil, that he should have said Nihil Damus). Being thus molested with these and many other apparitions of the Devil, he left Scotland ; but being come to Ireland he did often likewise appear to him, and now of late he still commands me to kill and slay ; and oftentimes, says he, my whinger hath been drawn and kept under my cloak to obey his commands, but still something holds my hand that I cannot strike. But then I asked him whom he was bidden kill ? He answered, any that comes in my way ; but ' The better they be The better service to me, Or else I shall kill thee.'
1 Witherow, Memorials of Presbyterianism in Ireland.